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Ankle sprains ordinarily occur during sports requiring a rapid change of direction, jumping and sprinting. However, an ankle sprain can also occur from something as simple as missing a step or rolling your ankle on an uneven surface. The resulting disability can range from a mild sprain to a more serious tear of the ankle ligaments.
Most commonly ankle sprains tend to affect the ligaments on the lateral aspect/outside of the ankle. The typical method of injury is an inversion injury. This describes rolling onto the outer ankle, as your foot turns inwards. Ligaments in your ankle are overstretched or completely ruptured when you have an ankle sprain. This is turn affects the individual’s range of movement, stability, balance, and ability to walk/run.
Regardless of the severity of the ankle injury, rehabilitation and strengthening must be carried out in order to prevent ongoing disability, avoid recurrent ankle sprains, or chronic ankle instability in the future.
Typically ankle rehabilitation starts with restoring normal range of motion to the ankle joint, and surrounding joints. You restore normal ankle range by physiotherapy mobilisation techniques, soft tissue work and passive and active stretches. Swelling is also part of the reason for reduced range of movement. Eliminating swelling around the ankle is important for a speedy recovery. Your physiotherapist will give you tips on how to best achieve this.
As your ankle range of movement improves strengthening exercises are then incorporated into your individualised rehabilitation programme. You use strength, balance and functional exercise to strengthen you ankle invertors and evetors. These muscle groups provide stability to the medial and lateral ankle aspects of the ankle. These types of exercises will also renew stability and functional of the damaged ligaments in the ankle.
The main method of prevention of recurrent ankle sprains is to build up the strength, control and balance in the ankle. Proprioception is your body’s awareness of where it is in space. For example, even with your eyes closed you can tell whether your elbow is bent or straight, without having to look at it. You risk of re-spraining your ankle is increased when proprioception is reduced. Proprioceptive retraining can involve exercises such as standing on one leg. This can progress on to standing on one leg while moving the arms or the other leg. It can be more difficult when you close your eyes or you stand on an uneven surface. Your physiotherapist will provide you with specific proprioception exercises to suit your ability and level of injury.
Your physiotherapist will also provide you with sports specific rehabilitation, whether that be running, jumping, turning or pivoting. It is important to gradual introduce these into your programme. This is to ensure you are ready to return to your sport and feel fully confident in your ankle.
If you have sprained your ankle and require assistance getting back to normal function or to your chosen sport, contact us at Ballsbridge Physiotherapy Clinic. Our physiotherapists regularly treat and rehabilitate ankle injuries, ranging from mild sprains to more severe tears.